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ISRAELI ELECTION CAMPAIGN FOR DUMMIES

Bibi Netanyahu may be the most popular candidate for the next prime minister but two-thirds of Israeli voters do not want him.

Israeli Ballot Divider (photo credit: Yiftach T. Wikimedia Commons)

 They are fed up with both his foreign and domestic policies. Israel has been suffering one diplomatic defeat after another in the international arena and the cost of living, mainly housing prices, has been skyrocketing during his tenure. And that is why the March 17th election is now up for grabs and why the ruling Likud party is now in trouble. While the polls show that no other candidate comes close to Netanyahu for being the most experienced 'in taking the telephone call at three AM in the morning', Israelis do not select the prime minister but vote for the list of candidates presented by the various parties running in the election. This is the crux of the current campaign. 

 How it works...

Although more voters choose Netanyahu for prime minister, they may not vote for his Likud party but for some other party list whose policies they prefer.

 On election night, all the votes will be tallied and then divided by the magic number of 120, the number of Knesset seats. The answer will determine the exact number of votes required to win one Knesset seat. For example: If 1,200,000 Israelis cast their votes, 10,000 votes will be required by each party to win one Knesset seat according to the list of their candidates. So although more voters choose Netanyahu for prime minister, they may not vote for his Likud party but for some other party list whose policies they prefer. Each voter's choice in the ballot booth will be determined not only by the party leader's popularity but also the party platform. Therefore, if two-thirds of the voters do not like the Likud's proven record on both the Palestinian issue and the economy, it means another party leader such as Labor's Yitzhak Herzog or dark Horse Moshe Kahlon, have a fair chance of pulling off a big upset.

 

 Kahlon's dilemma...

Moshe kahlon (photo credit: dikla bassist shafrir - CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

 The polls indicate the new evolving party of Kahlon, a former Likudnik, would already win 12 seats right off the bat without his even presenting his list of candidates! Moreover, Kahlon bolted the Likud because of its capitalistic policies and has championed the cause of the middle class and low-income earners. But although Left on economics, he has not clarified whether he has jettisoned his hardline Likud-wing approach on the Palestinian question. This is Kahlon's dilemma. If he softens on the Palestinians he will turn off some potential Right-wingers, but if he sticks to his tough stance he will deter Israeli doves that support his more socialist economic approach.

 

No Israeli party has ever won a majority of over 60 Knesset seats that would enable it to immediately form a one party government

 Current poll estimate...

  No Israeli party has ever won a majority of over 60 Knesset seats that would enable it to immediately form a one party government. After the election, a party leader must build a coalition that will command a majority in parliament.

Right

  • Likud 21
  • Jewish Home 16
  • Eli Yishai Heredi 3
  • Total far Right seats 40

Center (could go Right or Left)

  • Kahlon (All of Us) 12
  • Lieberman (Israel our Home) 8
  • Haredi (Litzman) 8
  • Haredi (Derri) 4
  • Total of non-committed 32 seats

Left-Center  

  • Labor-Livni 21
  • Lapid 11
  • Meretz 6
  • Arab parties combined 10 (have never joined a coalition but could side with Left in ensuing presidential consultations)
  • Total of Left - Center 48 seats

 

President Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: Avi Ohayon, Israeli Government Press Office)

 After the final official vote count, State President Reuven Rivlin will confer individually with representatives of all the parties who have won Knesset seats to hear their choice for the party leader they wish to form the next coalition. On this basis, the President will select the party leader who, he thinks, has the best chance of forging a coalition. Then the horse-trading will start in earnest with potential partners.

 

The way it looks at this juncture, Kahlon and Lieberman will be the king-makers of the upcoming election.

 On this crucial aspect, the President is not obligated to choose the party leader who has won the most seats. For example, Tzipi Livni once won 28 seats to Netanyahu's 27 but Netanyahu formed the coalition because there were more combined seats from Right wing and parties who supported him. The way it looks at this juncture, Kahlon and Lieberman will be the king-makers of the upcoming election.

 

 

  David Essing

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